Army reservist jailed over Fermanagh attack

Thursday 27 February 2014 17.32
Two men were jailed for a total of 12-and-a-half years
Two men were jailed for a total of 12-and-a-half years

An Irish Army Reservist has been jailed for six-and-a-half years for gun charges arising out of an attack on a trainee policeman’s home in Co Fermanagh four years ago.

Gerard McManus, 28, was sentenced at Belfast Crown Court.

Belfast Deputy Recorder, Judge Corinne Philpott QC, told McManus and his co-accused Kevin Nolan, 35, that they clearly planned to "endanger the life of the student police officer".

Judge Philpott said the attack on 21 November 2009 was foiled by undercover police during an "intelligence-led operation" at a block of flats in the village of Garrison where the student officer was living.

He said that an aggravating factor against McManus was that he had served nine years in the Irish Army and was trained in the use of weapons.

McManus, from Fernhill, Letterkenny, Co Donegal was sentenced to six-and-a-half years while Nolan of Main Street, Blacklion, Co Cavan was sentenced to six years in prison.

Earlier this month, while their lawyers accepted they faced custodial sentences, it was claimed that the trainee policeman had been targeted by one of his own relatives, who was later "spirited away".

The lawyers said the individual, known to authorities on both sides of the border, had acted as an agent provocateur.

McManus and Nolan, they said, always maintained they never meant to harm or injure the policeman.

However, the prosecution, who did not proceed with a charge of attempted murder against the men, rejected any suggestion that their mission was only to scare him, as a loaded weapon was fired.

The original charge of attempting to murder the officer was "left on the books" last month when they admitted having a gun with intent to endanger life, and to possessing articles likely to be used in the preparation or instigation in acts of terrorism.

They related to a car, a balaclava, gloves, lighters and soap.

In addition, McManus also admitted using a gun to resist his arrest at the time. He fired off a shot making his escape when undercover officers moved in. Although arrested the following morning hiding in a shed, no weapon was recovered.

Judge Philpott said the weapon has still not been recovered despite an extensive search at the time by 24 police and military over a six day period.

"The river was also dredged and McManus gave no assistance as to the whereabouts of the gun,'' added the judge.

Nolan was arrested at the scene in the Vauxhall Astra car seen approaching the officer's home. He was found in the front passenger seat wearing black woolly gloves and sitting on a loaded 15 round magazine for a Glock pistol.

The judge said Nolan had specifically acquired the blue Astra car "to carry out these offences''.

Judge Philpott said that police recovered a bag from the rear of the car which contained a change of clothes.

Nolan told police that his role in the incident was as a "pathfinder'' and during interviews he drew a map for detectives of the route he took to Garrison, said Judge Philpott.

Both defendants also received three year concurrent sentences for possessing articles likely to be of use to terrorists.

They were also placed on a ten-year notification period under the Counter Terrorism Act.